ALBUM REVIEW – “Black Widow” by In This Moment

One accusation that could never be levelled at In This Moment is that they’ve repeated themselves. The comprehensive revision of their sound that comes with each album has consistently kept the group’s fanbase on their toes, not least after the breakout success of 2012’s Blood. That its successor is perhaps the least significant stylistic shift the band has made could be perceived cynically as them finally settling down now they’ve hit paydirt, but Black Widow overall does do enough to establish itself as more than just a sequel, thanks to a more thorough incorporation of industrial metal and gothic pop rock elements.

It is, however, a frustrating listen, with seams of potential but a multitude of problems. First and foremost is prelude track ‘The Infection’, which builds up with no real payoff whatsoever and feeds rather awkwardly into the catchy but little else ‘Sex Metal Barbie’ (curiously, it works far better as an intro to single ‘Sick Like Me’, how they’ve been opening their recent live shows). A common problem over the entirety of the album is tracks with heaps of style and infectious hooks showing very little in the way of substance or depth, ‘Bones’ for instance boasting one of the finest choruses of the year but nothing else of real merit. It’s a pop metal album with the emphasis very much on the first part of that equation, any attempts at guitar riffs pushed to the background. ‘Dirty Pretty’ is as close to Black Skinhead as it is The Beautiful People, though it does at least have a sense of subtlety absent from most of the rest of the material.

This means that vocalist Maria Brink, who has always entirely represented the band’s visual identity, is now also the sole centrepiece of its music, and so her contributions determine where Black Widow succeeds and fails. On ‘Big Bad Wolf’ she’s excellent, her diverse and vicious performance reaching its peak in an intensely heavy bridge; the title track tries to repeat the trick and flops, also weighed down by the bizarre Knife Party-esque sampling employed. This is an immaculately produced collection, suiting the polished nature of the music but robbing the more metallic moments of the heft of older material.

Where this band has consistently shined despite the inconsistency of their output is in their ballads, and two vie for the tops spot here – ‘Sexual Hallucination’ is a captivating duet between Brink and Brent Smith of Shinedown, its rich textures and loud/quiet dynamics let down only by some hackneyed lyricism. ‘The Fighter’ on the other hand builds from mournful piano to a powerful crescendo. Again, though, In This Moment fail to completely convince, and after the disturbing spoken word interlude ‘Into the Darkness’ the drawn-out, morose drift that closer ‘Out of Hell’ settles into leaves a sense of disappointment, briefly redeemed by an outro that finally gets interesting. Songs left to run for too long is a common problem for Black Widow, providing a constant atmosphere but bogging down its momentum.

The inconsistency of In This Moment remains infuriating, and once again they’ve failed to live up to the admittedly sky-high standards of 2008’s The Dream. With stronger conceptual underpinnings than its direct predecessor but less top quality material, Black Widow is another strong release mired by flaws that hold it back from real greatness. Brink and co. seem to have finally settled on a clear straight-line progression in sound, though the band’s history suggests another abrupt left turn could be imminent. Either way, right now they’ve given us another good, but not perfect, collection of radio rock earworms.

Rating: 7 / 10 

Michael Bird

‘Sick Like Me’

In This Moment

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